More federal funds to dry up; alcohol labeling stalled

10/04/2013 4:02 PM |

Capitol

Four days after political gridlock in Washington shut down large swaths of the federal government, it remains unclear what the effects have been — or could be — on the local level, largely because it remains to be seen how long the game of political chicken will last.

Larger projects such as the Mattituck Inlet dredging and beach replenishment, which is in its formative stages but faces a Jan. 15 deadline to be finished, could be facing delays as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been dealing with worker furloughs.

And for some small businesses such as the fledgling Moustache Brewing Co. in Riverhead, efforts to cut through red tape to seek federal label approvals could prove to be an even more time consuming process than usual, as the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau permit processors can’t work.

Others – such as Calverton National Cemetery and Brookhaven National Lab – have a couple weeks before funding sources start drying up, officials said.

“At this time, we are open for business, unrestricted,” said Mike Picerno, director of Calverton National Cemetery.

But on Oct. 15 – when a large portion of the cemetery’s funding dries up – Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) said that two-thirds of the staff is set to be cut, leaving about 30 of the cemetery’s 100 employees on the job. The result will be delayed burials for veterans, leaving maintenance work at the hallowed grounds an afterthought.

Lauri Spitz of Moustache Brewing Co. said she and her husband are in the process of opening up the Riverhead brewery, but before they can sell any beer they need to get label approval for their keg collars from the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. But even applying for the labels online is impossible amid the shutdown. Instead, Ms. Spitz will have to go the old fashioned route, filling out the applications with pen and paper.

“If this ends up going on, I’d guess the processing of new applications will be a back burner kind of thing,” she said.

Anthony Nappa finds himself in the same boat.

Mr. Nappa, winemaker at Raphael and Anthony Nappa Wines, both in Peconic, said he submitted three labels for approval to the TTB about a month ago. Even when the government is functioning normally, he said, the process usually takes between one and two months.

“The system takes a long time regardless, so this doesn’t help,” Mr. Nappa said. “Until they open up again it might get even more backlogged.”

Macari Vineyards ended up being a little more lucky, hearing from the TTB on Sept. 30, exactly one day before the government shut down.

Beyond the beverage industry, Mr. Bishop  said on Friday that his office had not yet even received confirmation from the Department of Homeland Security about furloughs at Plum Island, which employs about 400 people. But Homeland Security’s science and technology directorate, which administers the island, has seen 630 of its 650 employees furloughed.

So a skeleton staff is only likely to be in place, Mr. Bishop said.

Joe Gergela, executive director with the Long Island Farm Bureau, said a handful of farmers whose farms were badly damaged during Superstorm Sandy, were working with the National Resources Defense Council – which operates under the United States Department of Agriculture – to engineer fixes to prevent future damage. Gergela said it’s “uncertain if the engineers or the people with jurisdiction over that are going to be on the job.”

jpinciario@timesreview.comryoung@timesreview.com

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